Organizing for Thanksgiving…

It might be a little early, but I get the feeling that we are all ready for Halloween to be over and ready to embrace the holiday season with open arms.  I even heard Christmas carols being played on the radio!

So organizing for Thanksgiving — Im specifically talking about a Thanksgiving Day feast.  I’m going to take a page out of The Holiday Binder and talk about how to organize a chaos-free Thanksgiving Day lunch or dinner.

I don’t know about you, but hosting a Thanksgiving Day lunch for more than a few guests stresses me out.  Here’s why: getting RSVPs, coordinating who is bringing what, did we forget anything like plates, napkins, or tea, grocery shopping and hoping they are not out of pumpkin pie spice, and of course the inevitable cleaning and decorating!

Here is “Jennifer’s Guide to a Chaos-Free Thanksgiving Day Feast”

*the key ingredient is planning…planning…planning*

  • Three weeks before (1st week of Nov): *Thats this week BTW!*
    • Set the date and time
      • Call or email everyone you plan to invite
    • Plan your menu
      • When you email and call your guests, ask what they want to bring for the dinner.  Have suggestions available in case they are not as planned as you.  Paper products, sodas/teas, dessert ideas, etc
    • Test drive any new recipes that you plan to make
      • No one wants to try a great new recipe only to realize that pumpkin mango pie is not as tasty as it looked in the magazine.
  • Two weeks before (2nd week of Nov):
    • Stock up on non-perishable items that you will need for your recipes
      • Canned goods
      • Spices
      • Baking essentials (cake flour, cookie mix)
    • If you are making the turkey and have room in your freezer, then buy your turkey now!
  • One week before:
    • Get a final head count
      • Email everyone just to make sure they are still coming and to find out about any surprise guests that are tagging along. (My cousins are always bringing school friends)
    • Start cleaning and decorating
      • I suggest doing several cleaning activities a night so you don’t have to tackle it all in one day.  Monday: dust and vacuum, Tuesday: clean the bathrooms, sweep & mop, Wednesday: decorate
  • Two days before:
    • Hit the grocery store for perishable items like bread, milk, eggs, and vegetables
    • Make anything like dips or pies so you don’t have to make everything the day of the party
      • Make sure it will keep two days in the refrigerator before making
  • One day before:
    • Get the table ready
      • Arrange dishes on the table and label each so you know what dish will be used for what recipe
      • I would also note the cooking time and temperature on the label – makes it easier to map out what will be cooked first
    • Tidy up
      • Pick up anything that has gotten tossed around the house since you cleaned
      • Enlist any family members to help tidy up and make the house look and smell nice
  • Day of:
    • Enjoy everyone’s company without being stressed!
    • Make a “Thankful” jar where guests can write what they are thankful for on a piece of paper, and drop in the jar before lunch.  Read each response aloud while you are enjoying the delicious food.
    • Ask the kids to help clean the table and let the dishwasher do all the work.

Organizing for the holidays with “The Holiday Binder”…

Fall is my favorite season…what is not to love about cool, crisp nights, apple picking, county fairs, hay rides, the list could go on and on.  Back-to-school marks the  change of seasons for me and I’m sure everyone else.  It should have its own New Year celebration.  Once school starts and all of the notebooks, glue sticks, and pencils are cleared off retailers shelves…in comes the Halloween decorations!  Does anything about that stress you out?  Well it used to stress me out to no end…Halloween is just around the corner, then Thanksgiving, then “Hello” Christmas!  I always had so many ideas and plans for such a short amount of time…how can I do it all, and decorate for each holiday, and see my whole family, and party with my friends…it was overwhelming!  Then I came up with “The Holiday Binder”.  The binder was nicknamed “The dork book” by my friends.  I understand my need to have everything planned and organized to a “T” is unnatural for others, but it makes me sleep better at night! 

So on to “The Holiday Binder”…The thought behind it was to keep track of everything holiday related.  There are five sections for Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve.  Within each section are subsections for:

  • Recipes for Holiday Goodies
  • Indoor Holiday Decoration Ideas
  • Outdoor Holiday Decoration Ideas
  • Costume Ideas (Halloween)
  • Present Ideas & Budget Forms (Christmas)
  • Activities to celebrate the season
  • How to Host Great Holiday Parties (general for any holiday party)

The holiday section is separated from the other by a heading sheet I created in Microsoft Word (clip art & word art was my friend).  The subsections are separated and labeled with index dividers.  Where did I get the stuff to put in the binder? Mainly from my favorite magazines, but also from articles I read online or ideas from websites like Martha Stewart Living, Family Circle, and Better Homes & Garden. 

Here’s what you do:  tear out pages of the magazine, cut out the portion that you want to keep (might be the whole page), tape to a white piece of paper (or colored for the holiday if you want to go crazy), and categorize accordingly.  I also put everything in sheet protectors – it makes everything visually appealing, nice to touch (I love the slick surface), and easy to clean (I tend to drop food on my recipes when cooking).

I have added to the binder every year and I look forward to getting it out every September.  I’ve been known to fantasize about the holiday binder well into July!  It’s amazing how much I look forward to the holiday season rather than stress over it and all thanks to a simple binder that took a little love and effort to create! 

Id love to hear from you – have you put one together – how does it help you and your family get through the holiday madness?  Send me an email with your holiday organizing questions!

*This is a recap of my organizing article printed in Sophies Womens Magazine-Oct Issue*